Why training is so important?
Just like anyone else, I like to go to outdoor stores and wander through the firearms section. Almost always I hear conversations of eager young folk bragging to their friend their extensive knowledge of firearms and occasionally their bragging on their tactics that they would use if they are met with a hostile person. I kind of chuckle to myself because way too often I see these similar people blasting away on the shooting range but barely hitting a target no more 20 feet away from them. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love pulling the trigger as fast as possible emptying a magazine as fast as you can? But is that considered tactical defensive shooting?
As a firearm instructor, often I have clients who claim that they shoot regularly and feel that they are competent on the range but when they get on the range with me, they can’t consistently hit a target that’s standing right in front of them.
My thought quickly goes to church safety/security teams that are out there. Many of them have little to no training whatsoever. Whether it’s because they don’t have the time to train, have a hard time getting the whole team together at the same time for training, don’t have the finances to have professional training or whether they believe that they are adequately prepared simply because they have CCW permit holders on their team. Many teams simply don’t train. Some believe that since they haven’t had anything happen in their church, they don’t need a safety team.
Although most church safety teams are comprised of volunteers who have their Carry Concealed permits and want to use their “skills” to protect against the bad guy, the reality is that no one knows exactly what they would do and how they would react until they are faced with a hostile situation. This is where proper, high-quality training comes into effect.
I recently read a book called “Building Shooters, Applying Neuroscience Research to Tactical Training” by Dustin P. Salomon. He was a Senior Instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).
The premise of the book is, in short when one learns a new skill it immediately goes into “Short Term Memory. The problem is, short term memory is just that, short term. Salomon stated, through his research that short term memory can last from a few seconds to days or a just couple of weeks. It’s almost like RAM (Random Access Memory) in a computer. RAM is used for short term storage for the computer to work. Once the computer is done with that “memory” or data it gets pushed back to the back corner of RAM and eventually gets pushed out and “forgotten” with newer data.
This is exactly how our short-term memory works according to Salomon. Once we learn something, whether it’s a new skill, a new name, a new experience or anything, our brain immediately stores it in our short-term memory.
Here’s the problem, our short-term memory is just that, short term. Our brain actually has to process it into our long term or according to Salomon, which he calls our “Procedural Memory”.
Salomon describes procedural memory as memory retrieval without conscious effort. In other words, you don’t have to stop and think about it, you just do it. I call it “Muscle Memory”. Muscle memory is doing something by reaction without thinking about it.
Everyone has muscle memory but may not realize it. What if you had to stop and think through things all the time? Here’s an example of how you actually process something.
There’s a glass cup of water sitting next to you on the counter. You accidently knock the glass cup over. You begin the process of realizing that the glass cup of water was knocked over and if you didn’t stop it from rolling off the counter onto the floor, it will break into 1000 small, sharp pieces of glass and cut your foot if you stepped on it and to stop that glass cup from falling onto the floor you have to lift up your arm and move your arm towards that glass cup and reach for that glass cup with your hand and once your hand got close to the glass cup you would close your hand around that glass cup and effectively grab the glass cup before it rolled off the counter onto the floor.
Whew, that a lot to process in a very short amount of time. By the time you totally processed your thoughts, movement and actions and came up with a plan, that glass cup would already be on the floor in 1000 sharp pieces, and you are sitting there wondering what happened.
Now muscle memory or procedural memory is done without thinking. You’ve done this a million times. You just reach for that glass cup and grab it before it falls on the floor. It’s that simple.
Here’s the problem, you can’t just do something once and expect it to happen days, weeks or even years later.
Our learning is the same way. When we first learn a technique, our brain stores it in our short-term memory. By repetitive training sessions, our brain ultimately stores that training into our procedural memory or long-term memory. If we don’t continue that repetitive training, we’ll quickly loose that training.
Here is a chart that help explain. Called the “Forgetting Chart” developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus.
This chart shows that within the first 3 days after learning a new information, your retention of that information is quickly lost or forgotten. This is because it was stored in your short-term memory. However, with reviewed and repetitive training, your retention of that information is greatly enhanced and ultimately stored in your long term or procedural memory.
Another point that Salomon pointed out is the effect of adrenaline on the body during a traumatic event can be good and bad. The good part is that adrenaline can give you “super” strength and agility. The bad part is that it causes your brain to slow down, and your thought processes nearly stop. You get that “brain fog” and simple thought are hard to muster up. It’s like the deer in the head lights. You literally freeze as you wait for your brain to kick in. Is freezing a good thing to do in a life and death situation?
The ultimate conclusion. When faced with a life and death situation, you won’t have the time to think, you have to react. In the Police world, when they are faced with a life and death situation, they revert back to their training. That’s why police are always doing some sort of training whether its firearms, verbal de-escalation, unarmed self-defense or even driving and those skills depreciate over time.
So the question is, if you don’t train, what are you going to revert back to? It’s usually called PANIC!
For those church safety teams, training is so vital to your church’s protection. Not only does training mitigate liability but training also relieves stress and anxiety during hostile events and enhances your chance for survival.
Gary is the owner of Beller Tactical Academy who specializes in church safety team and personal safety training in Ohio and beyond. A 30 year veteran law enforcement officer, Gary brings his skills and knowledge to those who want to take an active role in protecting themselves and their loved ones.